The Miami Herald
March 6, 2000
After Castro, Cuba may be in chaos
Failure to make reforms cited


 The chances for chaos in Cuba once President Fidel Castro leaves power are
 ``better than 50-50'' if he continues to block significant reforms, says Michael
 Kozak, the former top U.S. diplomat in Havana.

 And that is why Cuban exiles should step up contacts with the island, Kozak
 added, to help strengthen Cuban society so that it can better withstand the shock
 of Castro's disappearance and move toward democracy.

 ``I don't want to say civil society is the magic pill, but it's a good element in
 starting to prepare Cuba for the future,'' said Kozak, who headed the U.S.
 Interests Section in Havana from 1996 until last October. Kozak, who was
 replaced by Vicki Huddleston, is now in Washington awaiting a new State
 Department assignment while he learns Russian. But he remains concerned
 about Cuba's future, he told The Herald.


 Credible Cuban analysts on the island, he said, are already worrying about the
 mayhem that might erupt once Castro, who is 73 years old, surrenders the reins
 of power he has held since 1959.

 ``I would put the chances for a chaotic transition at better then 50-50,'' Kozak
 said, noting that such a scenario probably would involve some level of violence but
 not necessarily an all-out conflict.

 ``There will be some vengeance-seeking . . . whether it's every night four or five
 people getting beat up or knocked off by their neighbors for something they've
 done in the past, or something on a larger scale,'' he said.

 But the worst problem in the long run, Kozak added, is that Castro has done
 almost nothing to put in place the kinds of reforms and structures that could help
 maintain Cuba's stability once he is gone.


 Economic reforms adopted since 1993 have been far too modest, and political
 reforms have been absent altogether.

 ``A Cuban reformer is someone who thinks the Chinese have it right,'' Kozak

 One change he noticed over his three years in Havana, Kozak said, was that top
 Cuban officials are now openly maneuvering for position and power in a
 post-Castro regime.

 ``After Cuba goes through the preplanned drill for a funeral, they will all stand
 together and pat each other in the back and show how unified they are,'' he said.
 ``But after a couple of months . . .''

 Senior government officials will likely start arguing over budgetary allocations or
 economic policy, Kozak said. And the island of 11 million people could then fall
 into disorder. Violence ``in a way is the secondary part. The bigger worry is if you
 create such a mess that people take desperate measures. More people can get
 killed drowning than getting shot,'' he added, referring to the possibility of a
 massive emigration wave toward Florida.


 One way to try to avert such chaos, Kozak argued, is to strengthen Cuban
 society by supporting the Clinton administration policy of promoting so-called
 ``people to people contacts.''

 ``I would encourage people, instead of worrying about those who go to Cuba and
 are manipulated by the government, to find other people with eyes wide open and
 do something that won't be subject to manipulation,'' he said.

 Cuban exiles could be particularly helpful in promoting the kinds of peaceful and
 reasonable activities that can help build and strengthen civil society in Cuba,
 Kozak added.

 ``You're going to lose some of the battles,'' he said. ``But if you are willing to run
 the risk [of Cuban government manipulation] and you can run through their
 interference, that's what building civil society is all about.''

                     Copyright 2000 Miami Herald